Wonder Woman 18

Alternating Currents: Wonder Woman 18, Drew and Scott

Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Wonder Woman 18, originally released March 20th, 2013.

Drew: Wonder Woman is a hard title to pin down, which makes sense, given that its hero is equally slippery. Detractors might cite Diana’s unknowability as weak characterization, but as we saw in issue 9, that distance may be the sharpest weapon in writer Brian Azzarello’s arsenal. Azzarello seems to relish ambiguity, focusing on heroes that are anything but predictable. Issue 18 multiplies this effect, capitalizing on his large cast of equally oblique characters to produce a staggering parade of surprises.

The issue resumes with Diana and Ares in Demeter’s realm, held at swordpoint by Hermes. Diana and Hermes battle, while a wounded Ares slinks off to find Demeter. Hermes is fighting with his claws literally out, and is proving to be a formidable match for Diana, but fortunately, Orion steps in to lend a hand. By the time they catch up with Demeter, though, they find that Ares has already made off with the baby. Diana blames herself for trusting Ares, but it turns out that he really was out to help — he’s brought the baby back to Diana’s apartment. Meanwhile, Poseidon swallows the first born, because you know how effective that is at killing Zeus’ children.

The main surprises here hinge on the allegiances of the gods. After Hermes’ betrayal, Diana doesn’t know who to trust. Sure, she has a quasi-paternal relationship with Ares, but when he disappears with the baby, she loses all confidence that he might be on her side in this. I can see how some might find the characters impenetrable, or their motives arbitrary, but I find Azzarello’s mix of obfuscation and surprise intoxicating. I never know exactly what’s going to happen, but I always believe it when it does. Far from a cheap ploy, Ares seeming betrayal plays against Diana’s insecurity both amongst the gods generally, and that relationship specifically. To discover that Ares came through, after all, is a touching win for Diana, even if it’s still unclear exactly why he did it.

That’s not to say Azzarello never clears things up. A few fans were up in arms about Orion’s “go get ’em, tiger” ass slap last month, but Orion explains the method to that madness in a way only he could.

Who's the ass now, huh?

See, “Legs”? He wasn’t objectifying you, like you thought. Azzarello is positioning Orion as Diana’s overly macho, but loyal friend. An exchange later in the issue suggests that Orion might just have a thing for Diana, but he expresses it with so little tact as to make it sound like a sleazy come-on. Diana has no interest in that, but it comes on the heels of a more genuine moment between the two, which just might be the kind of thing Diana needs right now.

For all of my pleasure with everyone’s guarded nature in this series, it’s understandably frustrating for Diana. It all comes back to Hermes, but his words in this issue suggest that he might not be as disingenuous as he seemed. When he spirited the baby off to Demeter, we feared that he was in league with some of the other gods, who might wish to harm the baby, but it’s clear now that Hermes was acting in what he thought were the best interests of the child. Sure, he has no loyalty to Zola, but he also isn’t a baby-killer. Of course, it’s not clear why he wants the baby alive — he says he was charged with its well-being, suggesting that he’s working on behalf of someone else’s interests — but it wouldn’t be an Azzarello story if there wasn’t plenty of ambiguity.

Speaking of ambiguity, I have no idea what to make of the scenes with Demeter. I suspect the graphic imagery paired with her passivity is meant to represent the raping of the environment (it’s no mistake that the violence here is perpetrated by War himself), but I don’t know what to do with that reading. The depiction of Demeter as utterly powerless — to the point of having no will of her own — is an interesting avenue for this series to explore, but is so unlike anything we’ve seen before as to be a bit disorienting.

So, Scott, what are you seeing in all of this? Analyzing this series sometimes feels like reading tea leaves to me — I know there’s interesting stuff here, but hell if I can make anything of it. At least we can finally settle on the birth announcements for Zola’s kid: It’s a boy! Does that confirm his identity, or does Zola really have to flip all the way through the baby names book before she lands on Zeus?

Scott: I’ve been tricked by Azzarello enough times that I’ll only believe the baby is Zeus when he sprouts a white beard and starts cheating on his wife. But I hope it is, if only because it would make that last panel super weird. The panel is great; it’s an image of dysfunction, but it’s the closest thing to a family portrait Wonder Woman has ever given us — a picture Diana might actually hang on her wall. Now imagine if the patriarch of this odd bunch happened to be the naked baby they’re all admiring. Not so cute anymore, huh?

If his first word is "dada", I'm outta here

There’s another reason I love this panel: it’s honestly the last thing I expected to see in this issue. Like Drew, I’m having trouble figuring out Ares’ motives, and when he disappeared with the baby I had no clue where he was taking it. Given Azzarello’s tendency toward plot twists and cliffhangers, I just didn’t think we’d find out by the end of this issue. In fact, the search for Zola’s baby has been teased out for so long that this reunion feels like a conclusion of sorts. Really, it was all just a distraction from the more important issues, like “what’s the deal with this baby and this prophecy?” We may still be closer to the beginning of this arc than the end of it.

Drew, I also found the passivity of Demeter quite jarring. Juxtaposed with the fights taking place elsewhere in the issue, Demeter’s inability to defend herself really stood out. Ares suggests that the seasons pass the same way every year, without consequence, but if he were paying attention he’d see that the seasons are becoming harder to define, with climate changes disrupting normal weather patterns and throwing harvest schedules out of whack. The Earth is sick, so Demeter is weak. Or maybe that’s not what Azzarello is getting at at all. I can’t make heads or tails of that hurling a pebble into the sea speech.

With this issue, the saga of the First Born graduated from being “one of many storylines” and squarely became “the other storyline.” I think it’s a significant promotion. Wonder Woman 18 ends without any immediate conflicts for Diana, which leads me to believe the First Born is about to come crashing into her life. That is, if he finds his way out of Poseidon’s belly. But it’s impossible to predict what direction Azzarello will take with Wonder Woman 19. For once, he’s given himself something of a clean slate, with no cliffhanger to pick up on. He certainly has a way of toying with my expectations, because I’m finding this lack of suspense very unsettling.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?


11 comments on “Wonder Woman 18

  1. See, I thought Demeter’s speech was less about passivity and more about fate. The “pebble in the sea” comment is her saying she had her role to play, her job to do, and she did it because she had to.

    Also, the passivity and power of Demeter is something that goes back to her ancient roots, if you’ll allow the pun. She sadly seems to exist to have children taken from her; she was powerless to stop Hades from taking her daughter Persephone. At the same time, in her sorrow, she very passively stopped caring for the Earth, and nearly destroyed it. She is the pebble; she may have caused the ripples, but she wasn’t the one who did the dropping in the first place.

  2. What do you guys make of the connection between Ares and Diana? They don’t just have a relationship, there’s something supernatural going on here. Take a look at the wound on Ares’ chest when he confronts Demeter – those are the claw marks from Hermes attack on Diana. Demeter also specifically mentions that Ares seems older and weaker now than he used to be just a few years ago, which would line up with when he took Wonder Woman under his wing. I suspect Ares is priming Wonder Woman to take over his role as the God of War. Naturally, then, I would like to see Wonder Woman and Kratos square off.

      • Oh that sure did happen, didn’t it? Well then all of my theories dissolve into a puddle on the ground.

        One of the problems I’m having following so many series is that I frequently forget those kinds of details between issues. Why can’t I just remember everything all the time?

        • Ares is a god, so he’ll probably live.

          I believe he’ll be a some sort of Agent Graves in Wonder Woman. His true intents will no doubt take time till they show.

          For example that he got the boy himself. It wouldn’t suprise me if he used/needed Diana to do so. He probably “tinkered” with things the way Hephaestus did when Wonder Woman went to hell. Giving her the love guns and then the mirror. While Diana fought Hermes, he got the baby. What it means that he got it will no doubt be interesting to find out. And by the way. There’s no blood on his feet on the last panel. Wonder what/why that might be 😉 ?

        • “Ares is a god, so he’ll probably live.” meant as that his wounds probably heals fast, being immortal and all.

        • I don’t think you are wrong about there being a connection, though–maybe not such a metaphysical one, perhaps, but wasn’t it noted that Diana’s compassion was especially disappointing to Ares because of his connection to (and perhaps hopes for) her? He may “hate her more than he hates himself” because she actually made him care about something, or at least notice some flaw in himself (referring back to the 0 issue)?

          I also noticed the parallel with the claw marks, and want to read something into it, but then, when you’re both fighting a dude with big bird claw feet, and each get clawed across the chest, what else is it going to look like? So that might be a stretch.

        • Yes I absolutely believe there’s something to it, a link between War’s selfhatred/behavior and when he met Diana in #0, where he called her his biggest disappointment. It could very well be that he started to care.

          WW seems in many ways to be like 100bullets. That it’s best read in chunks, not bits. The next book (Called Iron perhaps, if you read into #0’s “I be Blood, Guts, Iron, War”) will for example begin with War meeting Diana in 0# and end where they save the baby in 18.

          Can’t wait till next month to see where it all heads of in 19, where I think War’s role become more clear during it and the 5 or 6 that’ll be (as I noted about his “I be” speech) the book called Wonder Woman War 🙂

  3. What’s up with Orion’s “you people are all sexist” comment? I’ve been trying to unpack that all day. He says that he’d have a lot harder time murdering a girl baby than a boy baby, but he’s a) joking and b) the one who said it. It’s maybe the only time in this series that anyone accuses anyone else of sexism and the only explicitly addressed gender issue. It’s a totally pointless and vapid thing to say in this context. I almost wonder if it’s a response to the criticism that Wonder Woman has not been crusading for gender equality in Azzarello’s run.

    • I saw it as a simple cultural disconnect — Orion took those disgusted looks to mean that everyone else would have an easier time killing a girl baby. That could be way off-base, but it feels consistent with Orion’s otherwise total cluelessness regarding Earthlings (but ESPECIALLY women).

      • I think it’s alot to do with Orion being an ass, and possible also that Brian plays his readers a bit like he did in Joker (who’s Johnny Frost character almost reflects the reader that’s a fan of the joker, and what would happen if such fan got to hang out with the joker).

        It’s almost as if he wanted people reading it becoming angry that WW wasn’t perfect in a/their sense that she did have a father, and then adress this with her overcomming it with leaving the old family and getting a new one.

        Also this interview with Azzarello gives some bits about both War and Diana!

        some cool bits includes:

        “And going back to the myth we’re pulling this out of, he [War] was worshipped. I mean, War wasn’t always a bad thing and that’s something I wanted to play with in relation to that character. ”

        “Boy, there’s a big one coming. Who would have thought that the only character she could trust would be War? And herself, Diana trusts herself and that’s really, really getting to the core of her character. I think that’s what separates her from other superhero characters. She has a real deep trust of herself. And even when she makes mistakes, she’s cool about it, you know? She’s not like Superman or Batman. They overcompensate “

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